Pregame notes: Girardi sees improvement

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
7:22
PM ET
BOSTON -- Joe Girardi has a new second baseman who has never played second base in the major leagues, a new right-fielder who has played all of two innings there as a big-leaguer, and a new relief pitcher who has not pitched in the major leagues since May 21.

Still, the Yankees manager said, "I'm excited to have these three guys on our club," of Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and Esmil Rogers. "I think we've made improvements."

But then he added the caveat, "Only time will tell."

Girardi inserted Drew right into Friday night's lineup, batting eighth and playing second base -- a position Drew said he has not played since the 10th grade. Prado, an infielder by trade who has played some left field, did not arrive in time to be in the starting lineup. But Girardi said Prado should be available to pinch-hit later on. And Rogers, who was claimed off waivers from Toronto -- he had been pitching for the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo -- is in the bullpen, available to work as needed.

Girardi said he is not concerned about having two players on the field at the same time who are essentially learning new positions because "these moves give us a lot of flexibility. We know what they're capable of doing and it's one of the reasons that we feel right now we can go with 13 pitchers."

As a result, the Yankees will be playing with a three-man bench Friday night -- Prado, Brendan Ryan and Francisco Cervelli. Girardi said having three shortstops on the roster allows him more opportunities to give Derek Jeter days off or DH days. Girardi will also have Ryan take grounders at first base going forward, now that his all-purpose infield backup, Kelly Johnson, has been traded away.

"Obviously, when you make moves like this you lose players that you end up having a relationship [with] and the guys that we had that either got traded, released or sent down, they worked hard and they played hard," Girardi said. "But moving forward, we tried to improve our club."

Mr. Rogers, unfiltered: Asked to assess why he struggled so much with Toronto -- he had a 6.97 ERA and 1.694 WHIP in 16 relief appearances, and allowed five home runs in 20 1/3 innings before being sent down to the minors, where he made seven starts -- Rogers was refreshingly candid: "I think one of the reasons is, when you're bad, you're bad."

He went on to say he struggled with his fastball command, which caused his secondary pitches to be less effective.

"That's my pitch, my fastball," Rogers said. "I think my fastball is my power pitch. And my slider is nasty. When my fastball and my slider command is good, it's all right."

Girardi said the Yankees had their eye on Rogers for a while. "I could use him long or short. Either way," the manager said. "He is built up as a starter, but he has been a guy that they have used for [multiple relief] innings in Toronto, two innings. Our goal is to see if we can get this kid on a roll and he can help us."

Pineda, Tanaka moving forward: Girardi said Michael Pineda will make a start for Triple-A Scranton on Sunday. He is expected to go four innings or 65 pitches. And Masahiro Tanaka will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Monday, which will mark three weeks since he was given a platelet-rich plasma injection in his torn ulnar collateral ligament.

"I'm not sure exactly what he is going to do on Monday," Girardi said. "Obviously when we get home we'll see what the doctors say and what the next plan is for him, but I know he feels much, much better."

Yanks won't miss these two: Girardi was asked how he felt about seeing both Jon Lester and David Price traded out of the AL East.

"There's nothing wrong with that," he said.

In other words, it is what you want.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 70
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .750
ERAH. Kuroda 3.77
SOH. Kuroda 137